Healthy, youthful teeth are bright white, so it’s not a surprise that most people are unhappy if their smile is discolored. A discolored smile makes you look older and unhealthy. Fortunately, teeth whitening, also known as teeth bleaching, is a safe, effective way to eliminate stains from your teeth, making your smile beautifully white again. Although there are many over-the-counter teeth whiteners, professional teeth whitening works best.

When Teeth Whitening Works

Teeth whitening is a very effective way to address some kinds of tooth discoloration. When your teeth acquire stains from sources such as:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Red wine
  • Dark beer
  • Chocolate
  • Berries
  • Smoking
  • Chewing tobacco

Then teeth whitening is very effective. It removes the stains from your teeth, leaving them much whiter.

However, if your teeth are discolored because of other causes, such as:

  • Naturally yellow enamel
  • Thin enamel
  • Damage to the tooth pulp
  • Decay or other defects in the enamel
  • Metal amalgam fillings or other metal restorations

Then teeth whitening may not be effective. Usually in these cases, we will recommend porcelain veneers, dental crowns, or other solutions that cover your discolored teeth with a more attractive material.

There are also some marginal cases that sometimes respond to teeth whitening, but may not. Fluorosis that causes small white spots on your teeth might be improved by whitening your teeth so the spots are less noticeable. Teeth staining related to tetracycline antibiotics may or may not respond to teeth whitening.

How Teeth Whitening Works

Teeth whitening works using a chemical that can penetrate the tooth enamel and attack staining molecules without harming the enamel itself. Almost always, the chemical used is a variation on peroxide, but there are many possible formulations that can be tweaked so you get the best whitening for you.

We prefer to use take-home teeth whitening kits. There are many reasons for preferring at-home whitening kits. First, you won’t have a dramatic whitening of teeth which will startle friends and family. Instead, whitening will occur gradually, and you’ll enjoy a beautiful smile without everyone knowing that you’re whitening it.

Second, your teeth will get whiter. In-office whitening can whiten your teeth a lot at once, but it can’t whiten your teeth as much as take home whitening. If you really want to achieve the whitest teeth you can and eliminate white spots or tetracycline stains, at-home whiteners give you the best chance.

Most importantly, at-home whitening can be maintained forever. In-office whitening starts to fade immediately, but take-home whiteners can be used to maintain your brighter smile essentially forever.

Benefits of Professional Whitening

Although there are many over-the-counter whitening products, you’ll be better off if you work with a dentist for teeth whitening.

A dentist can check your teeth before whitening to make sure they’re healthy and will actually respond to whitening. For many causes of discoloration, over-the-counter whiteners are a waste of time and money.

Professional whitening uses stronger whitening compounds, so you will see faster results–and more whitening.

You’ll also see uniform results. The trays and strips that come with over-the-counter whiteners can whiten your teeth unevenly, which can make your smile look worse. But with professionally crafted trays, your teeth will whiten uniformly, and look beautiful.

Professional whitening formulas are also adjustable. They can be modified to help you avoid sensitivity related to teeth whitening.

Best of all, your dentist can monitor your teeth to make sure you’re not overdoing it. Overwhitening your teeth can damage the enamel, which will make your teeth look more yellow in the long run. But with dentist-monitored whitening, you’ll know your teeth are being whitened safely.